It never ceases to amaze me just how unexpected a moment of grief can be.
After a few months of learning to drive, I passed my road test today. I was absolutely giddy. I was so proud of myself. And then as steadily as the giddiness wore off, it devolved into grief.
I suppose in my mind my father was already associated with learning to drive. Even from a very young age, when I was a passenger he would point out aspects of how the car works and rules of the road that would be important for me to know as a driver. I remember being very small and being amazed when he demonstrated that the wheel doesn't make the car move forward. I remember the massive blackout of 2003 when he taught me that an intersection with traffic lights that aren't working should be treated as a 4-way stop.
And I suppose in my mind I'd already associated my instructor with my grief. In the hours we logged in the car together, we had already had conversations about losses we've had and suicides we've experienced. With my study topic and his wife being a mental health counselor, we both had a lot to say about the importance and the role of mental health in society.
So I suppose the setup was already there.
But I never expected that on the day of my road test, his teenage daughter would tag along in the car. How sweet, I thought, that on a day she had off from school she wanted to spend with her father. How nice, I thought, to meet a family member of someone I had gotten to know over the course of our lessons. And then I passed my test, and he told me he was proud of me. I drove back home, and gave him a hug, and thanked him for his support in getting me to this point.
And then he drove off with his daughter and I went home alone with no father to tell about my accomplishment.
And it's not until you're alone that you actually realise that your heart wasn't warmed by watching a happy family interact. It wasn't cute to witness that father-daughter banter. It's not until you're alone that you realise that the quip he made about having no alcohol tolerance, and your response about your father being the same way, wasn't humorous small talk.
It was all an atmosphere of hurtful reminders to make you vividly aware that your own dad wasn't there to witness yet another important moment in your life.